World Vision official denies links to Hamas

BEERSHEBA, Israel (AP) – A senior employee of World Vision who is accused of siphoning millions of dollars from the Christian charity and directing them to the Islamic militant group Hamas denies all accusations, according to his lawyer.

Lea Tsemel said after Thursday’s hearing in Israel that her client, Mohammed el-Halabi, “knows that he has committed no offense whatsoever.”

Israeli authorities claim el-Halabi diverted around $50 million to Hamas to help build tunnels and purchase weapons. Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet said el-Halabi created fictitious humanitarian projects in order to get the funds to Hamas.

The Shin Bet said he underwent Hamas training in the early 2000s and was “planted” by the group at World Vision in 2005, where he climbed the ranks to become director of the Gaza branch.

World Vision, an international Christian aid group with headquarters in Washington State and the United Kingdom, works in nearly 100 countries.